New emails reveal more UT-Austin donors who threatened to withhold donations amid “The Eyes of Texas” controversy


Samantha Greyson

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 2 issue of The Daily Texan.

Over 500 new emails from powerful and wealthy UT donors calling for the University to keep “The Eyes of Texas” as the school song were uncovered by The Texas Tribune on Thursday. 

The collaboration of University donors and fans to keep the school song began in June, according to the Tribune, after Black athletes asked for the removal of “The Eyes of Texas” as the school’s alma mater. 

In October, UT President Jay Hartzell announced The Eyes of Texas History Committee of students, staff and alumni to discuss the history and origins of the song. A committee report was released in early March and claimed that while the song was written in a “racist setting,” it is not overtly racist.

Last month, The Texas Tribune initially uncovered racist emails from donors threatening to remove funds if the song was not kept in place. In response to the article, Hartzell said while he received a “small number” of hateful emails regarding the song, they did not influence the University’s decision to keep “The Eyes of Texas.”

According to the Tribune, the more than 550 emails they received were sent by UT-Austin after they inquired about missing records. Some of the emails were from powerful alumni such as former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, oil tycoon Bud Brigham, chemical engineer and entrepreneur Bill Stanley, and Mickey Klein, an independent oil and gas producer and philanthropist. 

“The Eyes of Texas” sparked controversy this summer when the Black Lives Matter movement and push for equity brought the demands of Black students and athletes to light. 

The song, which first premiered in a 1903 minstrel show, where white performers sang the song in blackface, has been condemned by many students for its racist history. 

Colt McCoy, former Longhorns quarterback and current NFL player, was involved in the pressure put on the University to keep the song. He was part of an over 70-person email chain of fans and donors who discussed the song, according to The Texas Tribune. 

Donor and alumnus Scott Ingraham, whose brother is former UT football player Rick Ingraham, called for an official task force of athletes to discuss the song. In an email published by the Tribune, he said the task force would have “ideally 50% African American and 50% non-Black” participants, according to the Tribune. 

In a June email to Hartzell, Brigham said “a diverse group to illuminate the history and also the value of the song for ALL the stakeholders would be a healthy and beneficial process, as opposed to what is happening now with demands, or else.” 

On March 25, history professor Alberto Martínez released a report finding that “The Eyes of Texas” is linked to Robert E. Lee and should not be the alma mater, in contrast to the committee’s report. On Monday, state leaders, the Texas chapter of the NAACP, students and Martínez held a conference at the State Capitol where they denounced the University’s decision to keep the song.

“Our comments stand,” said University spokesperson J.B. Bird. “We have been transparent through this entire process. Occasionally, people email abhorrent comments. We can’t control their speech, and the University would never entertain such hateful input, no matter from whom it came.”